Beefed up maternity health insurance bill sails through the House

DENVER– Lawmakers Monday passed a bill in the Colorado House that would require health insurance companies to include prenatal and birth control in all plans offered to women on the individual health care market. Sponsored by Denver Democrats Beth McCann and Jerry Frangas, the bill was stripped of this strong provision in committee weeks ago in order to move it onto the floor. House watchers expected to see a fight on the floor but the bill passed on a voice vote, with only minimal questioning from conservative Monument Republican Amy Stephens, who asked if the bill would now cover so-called Plan B contraception, the “morning after” pill, which some see as akin to abortion.

Rep. Amy Stephens
Rep. Amy Stephens

House Bill 1021 was originally weakened with amendments proposed by its sponsors when presented to the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. At the time, McCann and Frangas reluctantly removed contraceptive coverage from the bill and diluted the language so that insurance companies merely had to offer one policy with maternity coverage. Analysts agreed that those maternity policies would be relatively expensive and so would force women into plans without the coverage, in effect reinforcing the status quo.

“I sit on Business Affairs and was very happy with the amendments and voted it out of committee. So please explain to me what you are doing with this amendment,” said Stephens on the House floor.

Frangas said the point of the amendment was to make sure women were getting maternity care in the state. He said the bill did not cover Plan B contraception and would not cover abortions.

As part of a campaign supporting the legislation, House Bill 1021, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado submitted 250 postcards and over 350 email signatures.

In a statement, NARAL executive director Emilie C. Ailts said “Coloradans who care about healthy pregnancies are calling on our elected officials to recognize the importance of ensuring women and their families have access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care services they need to bear healthy children. Affordable access to the recommended 12-13 prenatal care visits is a critical tool to achieving healthy pregnancies and increasing the number of full-term, healthy birth-weight babies born in Colorado.

“Will the anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-comprehensive sex education politicians vote their purported values, which they claim are about healthy babies and healthy families? House Bill 1021 provides a clear opportunity for these anti-choice lawmakers to enact responsible policies that can reduce the need for abortion by ensuring women have access to the prenatal care they need for healthy pregnancies.”   

The bill passed easily on a second-reading voice vote.

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